This Week-Long Southern Road Trip Blends City And Country
The American south is a huge swath of land, but we like this little slice for a week-long road trip. You hit big cities, small towns and one of the most popular national parks in the entire country. We planned for a week, but you could easily double your time and spend two days in each location — they’re worth it. Here’s how it all goes down.
1. Charlotte to Asheville
Driving time: Two hours to Asheville
The big hub airport in Charlotte is your launching point, and we’d recommend immediately heading out from the city towards Asheville. The smaller North Carolinian city has castle-like historic mansions (the Biltmore), a vibrant local arts scene (the River Arts District), breweries on breweries and easy access into the mountains.
2. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Driving time: One hour to Great Smoky National Park, plus time to reach various trailheads
The most visited national park in the country, Great Smoky, is beloved for rolling hills of dense greenery and hiking trails including segments of the famous Appalachian Trail. You can find wildflowers blooming here year-round and catch views of the fog rolling over the mountains — creating the park’s signature smoky effect.
Driving time: three hours to Atlanta
After the mountains, you’ll be happy to immerse in the city life of ATL. The underrated city is a food wonderland, from southern classics at Busy Bee Cafe to the food hall at Ponce City Market. The Beltline is your city walking route, the city’s pedestrian mainstay. You can hop right on the trail from the market.
Driving time: Three and a half hours to Savannah
Yes, Savannah is as cute as you’ve heard. The draping Spanish moss, old-school architecture and cobblestoned walkways will make you fall in love with the Georgian town. But the boutiques, cafes and live music in the charming town squares and Forsyth Park will make you linger along your wanders.
5. Savannah to Charleston
Driving time: Two hours to Charleston
Since Charleston is Savannah’s bigger South Carolina cousin, we’d suggest leaving Savanna after brunch on Day five (we like Foxy Loxy or Back in the Day Cafe). Next up is Charleston’s laid-back coastal charm, complete with horse-drawn carriages and amazing seafood spots. Southern seafood? Uh, yes please. The French Quarter has the fine dining of your dreams, but try Fast and French for a more affordable meal.
Driving time: n/a
Plantation tours are a must in Charleston, but for a more nuanced look at the antebellum architecture, try Magnolia Plantation’s Cabin Project Tour that addresses the slave labor that built the plantations and follows the trajectory from the 1850s when slavery was abolished to the modern Civil Rights era.
7. Myrtle Beach to Charlotte
Driving time: Two hours to Myrtle Beach, three hours to Charlotte
Every road trip needs a stop at the beach. And although you can hit the sand at Tybee Island near Savannah and at Folly Island in Charleston, we like adding a beach day to the final leg of the trip in Myrtle Beach. After spring break season is over, Myrtle Beach is a peaceful Atlantic respite. There are a lot of tourist traps, but they’re easily avoidable if you spend your time in the waves instead of the shops.
After some fun in the sun, you’re on your way back to Charlotte. Don’t forget to grab some Sara J’s takeout for the road.